A Solution is Born
That's when I started using a system I called Kid of the Day. Each day, on a rotating basis, one child would be awarded this prestigious title and all the privileges that went with it, such as getting to decide which TV show to watch and being the first to play with a coveted toy and to get served at lunch.
In fact, for almost any dispute that might arise among the siblings, the Kid of the Day system could provide resolution. They couldn't agree on which board game to play? Let the Kid of the Day make the call! One wanted mac-and-cheese for lunch, and the others wanted pizza? The Kid of the Day got to decide.
The best thing about the system: it proved to be an extremely flexible tool. Sometimes it was hard to predict what the hot-button issue would be on any given day. We went through a phase when everyone wanted the "good" throw pillow to sit on while watching TV. Other times it was all about who got to get into the car first. Regardless of the argument, good old KOD was a wonderful fallback strategy.
In the early days, Kid of the Day was mostly a way to keep the peace. But when we welcomed our fourth child, Mike, and two years later, twin girls, Colleen and Megan, the KOD system evolved beyond its original purpose.
In any family, but especially in a large one like ours, it's important to find ways to make each child feel special. Kid of the Day was the perfect vehicle for doing just that. Instead of relying on KOD just to settle arguments, I began to use it in a positive way. First, we made a fancy Kid of the Day display for our refrigerator (see box). Each morning, with great fanfare, we would change the display to the name of the day's honoree. Then, all day I'd look for ways to do something fun with that child.
Even mundane chores could be turned into opportunities for one-on-one time. If I had to run errands, I'd take the Kid of the Day with me while the others stayed with Tim. The KOD also enjoyed the privilege of serving as my dinner helper. Among the "honors" were setting the table, picking out which vegetables to eat, and helping me stir or chop. He or she would begin grace and was the first to share one good thing and one not-so-good thing that had happened that day.
As the kids have grown older (they now range in age from 11 to 20), most of them have aged out of the KOD rotation. It's mainly the twins who still use it, as a way to decide who goes first saying their prayers and talking about what they're thankful for.
I can't say that the Kid of the Day system works miracles in every parenting situation. It doesn't help with fourth-grade math, and it can't get a 16-year-old home before curfew. Still, it saved my sanity on many occasions through the years, and best of all, it's helped me to forge a special relationship with each of my six children.
Becky Hayes lives with her family in LaGrange Park, Illinois.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine.